Thursday, April 19, 2007


Lisa's Book Update!

A couple of books I've gotten through recently:

  • "np" by Banana Yoshimoto - similar to her other books, "np" takes place in every day life, but is filled with hints of an other-world, one that is very real, but floats mid-way between our perception and oblivion. There is nothing explicitly mentioned as magic; perhaps that's what lends its eerieness to the circumstances that the characters find themselves in. Victims rather than captors. Fate rather than flexibility. Originally written in Japanese and translated into English by someone other than the author, I don't know whether to applaud the translation, or ridicule it for its glaring lack in fluency -- that is, phrases that seem like Google Translate could come up with just as well. Was that intentional, or was it naivety? The resulting effect certainly played with parts of my brain that had not been stimulated before, leaving a sense of foreboding, nausea, and a suspicion that things are not what they seem and I have been missing it all my life. Had the translation been chipped into top English shape, would it have been as effective... or more so?
  • "Once Removed" by Mako Yoshikawa - I don't usually cry too hard reading books (the most significant exception of "Where the Red Fern Grows" comes to mind). But this book was so sad! Classic Japanese psychology -- the concept of the sakura flower is written all over this book. Something so sensual and so prevalent that it overtakes your entire senses, vision, peripheral and all, only to fall and disappear in the blink of an eye. Experiencing the sights and smells of the week-long cherry blossom season is something you desire to hold on to forever. But as the climax is only one week long, so is life they say -- intense happiness and joy of life, mixed with the acceptance of imminent death and emptiness. The loss of a father, a mother, a stepsister, health, a purpose... but all is not lost. The sakura will bloom again next year.
  • "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman - the cover got to me! So cool... plus, it seemed like there was a subtle customer interest at the bookstore. A bit cheesy, a bit unbelievable, a bit like a cop-out. What was the point of the book? To tell us that our minds limit us from experiencing true reality, true living. Our minds are caught up with the demands and pressure of a life uprooted from nature. Of simply being -- calm in the present moment. We are so accustomed to letting our minds run our daily lives that we have forgotten how to enjoy the simpleness of each moment. We are so used to feeling and needing to be driven by external stimuli that we become lonely and confused if we start to really be aware, and realize that there is enjoyment in slowing down and focusing on your self. This is the type of book that I need to re-read several times to see if it has a helpful pointers that I just missed along the way.
Still working on:
  • "The Right to Write" by Julia Cameron
  • "Wherever you go, There you are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • "Woe is I" by Patricia T. O'Connor
  • "Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling" by Jane Hyun
Waiting list:
  • "On Looking" by Lia Purpura
  • "A Writer's Book of Days" by Judy Reeves
  • anything by V.S. Naipaul
  • anything by Vladimir Nabokov

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Living in a euphemistic world

Not so...

The second I heard that the gunman was identified as Asian-of-some-sort, one thing went through my head as I tuned out the reporting over live images of ambulances and the VT campus that I'm sure went through the minds of all Asian-looking people in America: "Oh frick, I hope he's not [insert your Asian nationality here]."

I've realized that, although my friends from college and subsequent years have brought me into an inclusive and healthy developmental experience, America does not only represent people who respect you for who you are.

The act of one in a group represents all the members in that said group, especially when they share non-white physical traits. Coming immediately after the Imus scandal, the fact that the shooter is Asian is only exacerbated. Racism is the first thing people will pounce on -- and ironically, the first thing people do is notice the race of the shooter.

On the other hand, even though I do occasionally fear for my life due to racial retaliation, insight into the shooter's culture and history will help explain more accurately why he chose to commit such a desperate and inhuman act. If anything is at stake, I feel it's the mental sanity of Asian and Asian-American students who constantly strive to become more integrated into American society. This is a perfect time to more thoroughly delve into the effects that being brought up in a traditional Asian family among an American backdrop has on a people that already naturally tend towards grievous amounts of self-consciousness and a childhood filled with family duties, high demands, and competition for the No.1 spot in any minor activity.

I'd like to know more about Cho's developmental history -- it's known that he had lived in the US since he was 8 years old, but what demands were put on him by his family and country that he couldn't defend himself against? What opportunities were missed for him that could have served as outlets to de-stress and feel like a worthwhile participant of his own life? Where are the positive role models who reached out to him when he was a kid? There were a few times in my life that I felt trapped and desperate, and most of those times had been during college. Luckily, I had my dad to cry out to during the first event, and a counselor that had an incredibly positive role in rescuing me from my delusions in the second.

I feel that the desperate shootings may have been an unparallel urge to release all of that anger, frustration, pressure and judgment, but without a constructive how. Anger at the external world, especially, since he did take action against more than just himself. A huge moment when his emotions and reality spiraled out of his control, with no more space to let it go but outwards.

If any progress is to be made in Asian-American psychology, we need to use this opportunity to educate K-12 teachers and counselors who have the potential to prevent repression like this from escalating to a desperate situation in college years, when cognitive adjustment becomes more difficult. In addition, I really believe that the unruly demands of parents who have not let go of their children needs to be addressed. It is an epidemic of sorts -- where most Asian Americans share similar harmful traits -- that prevent us from living life free from self-judgment and guilt.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Territorial problems.

I spy Earl hovering with graceful ease at the top, his crown place supreme. He looks over his kingdom with chin high and a leery eye, ready to pounce on his people -- intruders into his house, taking up his precious space, laying their waste on his precious stone floor, eating the food that was provided especially for him by the gods who provide air to breathe, light to see -- how generous need he be, after all. This is his land -- what's rightfully his, by golly! He commands the high seas!

And there! A flash of neon red. The Red Baron: Monty by name, is it, that's what they call him. A small and insignificant creature in Earl's opinion, with ne'er the size nor will of this worldly crown prince. Eat my food, dare he?? Earl's instincts flash and he's off in a rage!

Colors explode round and around the tank as Earl bullies Monty back into the hole he belongs in. Shivering and cowering in the darkness of stone shadows, Monty admits temporary defeat. Earl harrumphs and turns mightily away, ready to arrest another foul plot-in-progress.

Meanwhile, hunger drawing out his desperation, the Red Baron slides out yet again of his hiding place and circles around the opposite side of the stone pillar, out of King Earl's sight, out of mind... if he can only maintain his stealth. Monty calls out to the gods, and the they respond, creating a distraction of a mirage! A large finger appears and seizes Earl's fascination while Monty captures another piece of flakemeal, and darts back to his hole, what a treat! Praise the lord! Starvation escaped yet another delicious minute.

Earl suspects. He circles around the pillar, giving a threatening jab or feigned-attack, and Monty is still ever the prisoner of a place that is also rightfully his. If only he weren't so small or brainless...

The never-ending story of my fish, Earl (Tiger Oscar, 5") and Monty (Blood Parrot Cichlid, 2.5").

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Classic" sweetness.

Check this song out. More analysis later!

Click here to watch the video or write a comment at!
Nas feat. Rakim, KRS-One, Kanye West - Classic (Remix) (Video)

Socialization is key.

I really want to comment on the topic of the blog post by Carmen Van Kerckhove from (alas, the paradox of drawing attention to this topic while desperately trying to pass it off as "not a big deal." Is it really a big deal to me? If only my subconscious could speak up about this.):

Quick read: Barack Obama and white women?

I view the manipulated image of Obama's book as I do when people yell Chinese-sounding verbalisms at me — what's that? oh, a fly around my head *swat* — it’s just another one of those random things that the pubescent of mind put out to justify their otherwise questionable life experience (i.e., to get a laugh at another’s expense, to feel like they have marginalized the other). The last resort before physical assault occurs.

Although things like this are intended to reduce the respect of whoever is targeted, I feel that it is actually no more effective nowadays than a smear report on FoxNews, insignificant, since we've seen stuff like this over and over and over. . .

There was another reader who commented with another perspective (as opposed to my own "swat it and look away"):

"Do not stand for it, joke about it, or even shake your head in playful disgust. Confront it boldly and work to erradicate it. It is our duty as humans."
-- Mordecai
If only I were so enthused. In secondary school, parents and educators may believe that the child will grow out of bully tactics and use detention as a holding place, but what can we do when the child has grown? I really do believe that one way to eradicate racism is what many places have been doing for decades -- to introduce diversity into the school, workplace, and other social venues. The more one personally identifies with another, the less likely one is to automatically reject others of the same kind. Re-socialization is key, and just by being involved and visible in your community can be a motivator for change.